1. Christian Hackenberg, Penn State*
After bursting onto the scene as a freshman for Penn State, Christian Hackenberg fell off a bit last year. After posting 20 touchdowns and just 10 interceptions as a freshman, Hackenberg tossed only 12 touchdowns against 15 interceptions last season. Despite that decline, however, Hackenberg remains a very talented quarterback prospect. He certainly passes the eye test, standing at 6’4″, 236, and he has more than enough arm strength to get it done at the NFL level. Playing with subpar talent around him, Hackenberg still flashed an ability to make throws that other quarterbacks can only dream of. Obviously he will need to improve his decision-making to thrive at the next level, however, Hackenberg has the size and arm talent to become a special player.
2. Connor Cook, Michigan State
As perhaps the most pro-ready quarterback in the 2016 class, Connor Cook could be a rookie quarterback that thrives right away as a professional. Cook has a ton of arm strength and could really shine in a passing scheme that takes advantage of his arm. The Michigan State quarterback flashes excellent accuracy at all three levels though he needs to work on consistency when it comes to his ball placement. Perhaps the most impressive part of Cook’s game is his ability to thrive under pressure. Cook keeps his eyes downfield when the pocket begins to break down, and more often than not, he will make an accurate throw under pressure. Cook needs to improve his footwork to really take the next step in his development, but in terms of pure talent, Cook is excellent.
3. Jared Goff, California*
Coming off a season in which he threw 35 touchdowns and just seven interceptions, Jared Goff has earned the attention of scouts around the NFL. Blessed with natural accuracy and above-average arm strength, Goff is an excellent pure thrower with the talent to become a star at the next level. Goff plays with great balance and he flashes the ability to go through his progressions. Where Goff needs to improve is playing versus pressure. He has a tendency to hold on to the ball a bit too long, and his accuracy can be shaky when he’s forced out of the pocket. If he shows development in that area of his game, however, Goff could have a bright future ahead of him.
4. Cardale Jones, Ohio State*
Though he only has three starts under his belt, Cardale Jones showed enough down the stretch last season to warrant an NFL opportunity. Jones’ biggest challenge will be beating out J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller for Ohio State’s starting quarterback gig, but if he is able to earn the starting job, Jones could rise up this list quickly. He’s certainly got the arm strength to make it as an NFL quarterback, and he showed excellent touch and anticipation on deep routes. If Jones can continue to play well over a longer period than three games he could very well vault himself to the top of the draft.
5. Cody Kessler, USC
Going into his third year as a starter, Cody Kessler has proven himself as a viable NFL prospect. He lacks ideal size at 6’1″, 210 pounds, but his production in a pro-style offense and natural accuracy could make him an intriguing option for teams in need of a quarterback. Kessler’s anticipation and ability to play well under pressure are both things you want in a young quarterback, and he has pretty decent mobility in the pocket, showing the ability to escape opposing pass-rushers. Kessler will need to show improvement throwing deep down the field, but in the right system and with some time to develop, Kessler could start in the NFL.